S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation Awards Scripps $1.46 Million to Enhance Integrated Science

Bechtel Foundation Award

As more and more Scripps students choose to major in science, they are gaining more support in their efforts.

Four years ago, the Joint Science Department, which serves students from Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer Colleges, began an innovative yearlong program for firstyear students — the Accelerated Integrated Science Sequence, or AISS — that takes the place of three standard individual yearlong courses in biology, chemistry, and physics.

Now, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation has awarded Scripps College a $1.46 million grant to support integrated science education in the Joint Science Department by sustaining and enhancing AISS.

AISS allows students to move into advanced courses in their chosen discipline earlier than if they had taken the separate discipline-specific introductory courses. This jump start better prepares students to be competitive for interdisciplinary National Science Foundation (NSF) research fellowships in the summer and, by giving them more flexibility in their schedule, allows them to take advantage of opportunities to study abroad during their sophomore and junior years.

David Hansen, Weinberg Family Dean of Science, said that NSF funding allowed for the creation of AISS and has provided support over the past five years.

“With this wonderful new Bechtel Foundation award,” Hansen said, “the course can continue to evolve, and the department can explore additional approaches to bringing integrated science courses to our students.”

With AISS as a model, the grant will be used to foster discussions across a broad spectrum of colleges and universities about creating interdisciplinary science courses. The grant also will support development of new non-accelerated integrated introductory courses and interdisciplinary research opportunities for students.

Hansen is leading Joint Science Department faculty in the implementation of the new courses. He is assisted by Kersey Black, professor of chemistry; Newton Copp, professor of biology and the Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Professor in Natural Sciences; Scot Gould, professor of physics; and Adam Landsberg, professor of physics. Additionally, Mary Hatcher-Skeers, professor of chemistry, and Gretchen Edwalds-Gilbert, professor of biology, are leading the development of a new integrated chemistry/biology course.

Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga said: “The Joint Science Department is uniquely poised to be a national model for integrated science education through the successful AISS program. The S.D. Bechtel, Jr., Foundation funding will allow for curricular advances and the continued development and retention of women in the sciences.”

AISS provides a supportive and challenging environment for women who are interested in majoring in the sciences, with women comprising 84% of the total enrollment in AISS over the last three years. Bettison-Varga attributes this high percentage in large part to Scripps’ success in recruiting women who are interested in pursuing majors in the sciences; 62% of all students in AISS have been Scripps College students.


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